A recent lawsuit filed by workers in the food industry charges that key chicken processors in Maryland have been using illegal methods to hold down wages and benefits in food processing. The case names Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, JCG Foods, Wayne Farms, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, Peco Foods, and WSFP Foods, among others in what is expected to be an attempted class action suit.
All this comes on the heels of complaints that working conditions in food processing have been declining over the years, partly in response to the systemic use of illegal labor, a practice that undermines the bargain leverage of all workers.
Of course, the opponents of immigration enforcement never mention this fact. Ignoring the plain-view evidence that employers knowingly hire aliens not authorized to work, the suit claims that corporate executives get together and plan their pay and benefits through illegal collaboration. They hope to prove this through pre-litigation discovery.
In response, Perdue replied: “We do not believe this suit has any merit,” spokesperson Andrea Staub, told Bloomberg in an email. “Our compensation philosophy is to pay fair and in some cases above average wages.”
Wow, above average wages? How would you achieve a figure for “average wages” if some people weren’t paid above (or below) the average?
A few years ago, PBS did a series on meat packing, and found that there’s been real regression in the industry, even suggesting things aren’t much better than in 1906, when Upton Sinclair wrote his famous exposé on the Chicago meat packing industry, The Jungle.
“But some critics say America’s meat business,” PBS said, “has been in decline for decades and that the poor conditions found in slaughterhouses and packing facilities today are often little better than those described by Sinclair a century ago.”
In real dollar terms, meat packing seems to pay a lot less than it did as recently as 1980. Until immigration is properly limited and immigration and employment laws properly enforced, the problem will just get worse and worse.